Assured tenancy?

Houseboats not protected

Mew v Tristmire Ltd

[2011] EWCA Civ 912


Houseboats resting on wooden platforms had not become annexed to land. The occupiers of the houseboats were not therefore assured tenants for the purposes of the Housing Act 1988.


Patten LJ at paras 41-43:

"41. A structure like the bungalow in Elitestone which is positioned on a residential site for which a rent or licence fee is paid has, from the start, all the attributes of a house and none of the features of removability inherent in, for example, a caravan or a boat. The fact that it is not bolted as such on to the pillars which support it is immaterial. By its very nature it is intended to be a permanent feature of the site. The bungalow was constructed on site from components brought in for that purpose. It was not readily transportable as a unit and its removal would always have involved its demolition or destruction. In these circumstances, it is much easier to infer that the purpose of its annexation was that it should become part of the site.

42. But the same cannot be said of the houseboats in this case. Whatever condition they may now be in, they were, on the judge's findings, structures which could have been removed without being dismantled or destroyed in the process. They also fall into a category of items such as caravans which, as designed, are moveable. When one takes into account the background facts about the ownership of the harbour; the construction and regulation of moorings under the 1963 Act and the course of dealing between BHIC, its successors and the defendants, the overwhelming inference is that the licences or tenancies of the plots did not extend to the houseboats themselves but continued to be limited to the plots and the supporting platforms which BHIC had provided for the owners of the houseboats. BHIC continued in my view to provide facilities for the location of the houseboats at a rent as it was empowered to do under s.15. Such arrangements cannot have been converted into a lease of a dwellinghouse merely by reason of the fact that the defendants' predecessors in title chose to avail themselves of those facilities. The context points the other way.

43. I therefore consider that the judge was right to conclude that the houseboats have not become affixed to the land and that the defendants are not assured tenants. On that basis, his decision that the plots are held on licences cannot be disturbed although even had they been held on tenancies, the result would have been no different. A tenancy of the plot and supporting platform alone does not attract any statutory protection and would have been determined by one of the sets of notices served. It is therefore unnecessary to consider the judge's alternative finding that, even if affixed, "Emily" and "Watershed" were only ever held on licences or the further question of whether a tenancy of the houseboats would have qualified as a tenancy of a dwellinghouse. For the same reasons, the issue about the validity of the notices to increase the rent does not arise.”


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